Was a Paralegal Victimised

| General

Was a Paralegal Victimised

In late May 2022 news emerged of an Employment Tribunal judgment handed down by Judge Maxwell in favour of a law firm.

What Has Happened?

The Employment Tribunal claim was submitted by a colleague who had applied for a training contract in the firm’s criminal law department. However, she was offered a Caseworker position within the family and childcare department. Her employment contract specified the requirement for the Claimant to pass a twelve-week probationary period whereby she would be assessed as to whether she met the basic requirements of the caseworker role. The employment offer and her contractual terms also stipulated the condition that if the Claimant passed the twelve-week probationary period, she would receive an offer of a much-coveted training contract.

Initially, all appear to have been going well. The Claimant was new to the organization and on her probationary period, so the idea was for colleagues to assign easier tasks to her and build her experience over time. However, the Claimant suddenly realized that her colleagues were not distributing any work to her and perceived this as a seemingly strange situation.

There appears to have been a series of incidents that took place between the Claimant and her team members during the twelve weeks. The Claimant accused her teammates of:

  • using expletives to describe her
  • speaking behind her back
  • gossiping and
  • lying about her.

What Did the Judge Say?

Judge Maxwell observed that the Claimant had refused to carry out perceptively lower tasks. She also apparently did not appear to agree with the decision to gradually progress her to more complicated tasks. The significant development took place during her probation meeting when she communicated to her employer how disgruntled she was by the decision to remove files because of her inexperience. The Claimant also reportedly communicated that she felt the work that had been allocated to her was not exactly what could be defined as ‘rocket science’ by any stretch of the imagination.

The Claimant perceived that her employer was scornful, disparaging, and contemptuous towards her. However, this could not possibly have been the case as Judge Maxwell on the facts interpreted the opposite to be true. He perceived that the Claimant’s employer thought very highly of her.

The judge commented on the Claimant’s behaviour throughout the time she was employed by the Respondent. Examples of how she conducted herself included:

  • communicating her disquiet over having no work tasks to carry out
  • lacked time to carry out urgent activities
  • deciding to prioritize chargeable work
  • chose to submit an important legal document that had not been approved by a qualified lawyer
  • exhibited her attitude of showing little regard towards her fellow workmates and
  • how highly the Claimant thought of herself

One of the non-negotiable behaviours under the Claimant’s employment contract was for her to seek approval from a solicitor before sending out documents. However, the judge commented that the Claimant appeared to have seemingly ignored this instruction and treated the work allocated as that of her own instead of as that of the firm of solicitors. The judge summed up the Claimant’s approach as being that of perceiving the non-negotiable instruction as a mere technicality rather than an imperative requirement of the job.

What Lessons Can Legal Professionals Take From This Case

This case demonstrates that those aspiring to a career in the legal profession remember how privileged they are to be working in the profession. In this regard they should show a positive attitude, build up their experience and make a concerted effort to create good working relationships with colleagues.

The Legists Content Team

ASSESSING FIRMS

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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[1] Hyde, John – Case Worker who was dismissed after probation loses claim – 23 May 2022 - Case worker who was dismissed after probation loses claim | News | Law Gazette

[2] Barnett, Daniel – Procedure: Striking Out – 16 January 2020 - Procedure: Striking Out (danielbarnett.co.uk)

[3] Employment Tribunal – Miss M Puar v Duncan Lewis Solicitors Ltd [2022] Case Number 3323750/2017

[4] Rule 30A Schedule 1 to the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Regulations 2013

[5] Teinaz v Wandsworth LBC [2002] ICR 1471

[6] Sandra Andreou v The Lord Chancellor’s Department [2002] EWCA Civ 1192

[7] Article 6 European Convention on Human Rights

[8] O’Caithail v Transport for London [2013] I.C.R. 614

[9] Riley v Crown Prosecution Service [2013] EWCA Civ 951

[10] Rule 37 Striking Out

[11] Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board v Ferguson [2013] ICR 1108 EAT

[12] De Keyser Ltd v Wilson [2001] UKEAT/1438/00

[13] Arrow Nominees Inc v Blackledge [2000] 2 BCLC 167

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